Every year, Immanuel Lutheran Communities hosts an outdoor concert series for residents, families, and the wider Flathead Valley community.  Everyone is invited to these evening events, and snacks are served.  At the end of the summer, in September, we celebrate with a grand finale featuring a full meal as well as entertainment.

This year, though, something is different.  This year, the concert series is sponsored in part by generous gifts from businesses around the valley.  It’s been a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with these community partners, all of whom want to help our area’s seniors in need.  These gifts will help ensure that Immanuel Lutheran Communities can continue to provide safe homes in vibrant communities for Montana seniors at all income levels.  They’ll supplement the gap between Medicaid payments and the costs of caring for residents in the Skilled Care Center, help us offer memory support day services to families who aren’t able to pay the full fee, and address other needs on campus as they arise.  We are very grateful to these sponsors!

While our sponsors are a great addition to the concert series, little else about this summer tradition has changed.  The concerts are still a great time for an intergenerational community to come together to relax enjoy our beautiful Flathead Valley summer.  For the first concert Wednesday evening, the weather was almost perfect.  It was a little windy, but it wasn’t too hot and the clouds kept the sun from baking the crowd.  Chef Nelson’s nacho bar was a hit, as were the churros his team supplied for dessert.

This week’s concert featured Jack Gladstone, who also kicked off last year’s concert series.  Jack’s unique combination of original music, storytelling, and popular favorites made for an engaging and upbeat evening.  Jack’s music is deeply rooted in Montana and in his Blackfeet heritage.  He tells his own story, and he connects it to the historical world and the wider community.  His performances are well-received in no small part because they’re so connected to a place his audience loves.

This week, that audience included many family members as well as residents.  It’s very common for children and grandchildren to join residents at these events.  They’re nice partly because people of all ages can enjoy them together.  The Immanuel Foundation is delighted to be an integral part of the community that comes together at these concerts.  Thank you so much to our sponsors and to everyone who attended!

Today, I want to recognize a group of people without whom most nonprofits couldn’t do our work: volunteers.  Volunteers give of their time and talents for no compensation other than the warm feelings they get from helping further a cause they care about, and they make a huge difference.  They’re on my mind because of an event we have coming up, so it seems like a great moment to tell you about some of the wonderful volunteers we’ve been working with.

This weekend, the Immanuel Foundation will host our first-ever estate sale.  We’ve been busy for months, collecting hundreds of items—from furniture to dishes to jewelry—from residents of Immanuel Lutheran Communities and our valley.  Over the past few days, we’ve been moving the items from storage, pricing them, and beginning setup for the sale.  To do this, we’ve needed help.  This event would not be possible without a large group of dedicated volunteers who care about the success of the sale because they care about the community we serve.

Some of these volunteers live right here at Immanuel.  Over the past couple of days, I’ve gotten to spend more time with the lovely Shelby Thompson and Mark Norley.  Along with a few others, Shelby and Mark have been almost as committed to the success of this sale as we staff are.  They’ve cleaned furniture, polished silver, priced items, and provided insight into the mechanics of running a second-hand sale.  Shelby even came up with the idea of calling it an Estate Sale.  Both have also donated generously of their lifetimes’ worth of experience—and objects.  Their involvement began last fall as donors and has continued tirelessly (Shelby’s husband, Fred, will also be joining us a volunteer starting today).

Other resident volunteers include Mary Duryee, Glenna Small, B.J. Carlson, Barbara Gould, Susanne Beck, and too many more to list here by name.  Running an estate sale is tiring, sometimes grubby work, but our volunteers help keep it fun as they help us get the work done.

It’s not only residents who have given so generously of their time.  Our board members—in particular Gini Ogle, Margie Simpson, Debbie Snyder, and Jim Heim have also taken a great deal of time out of their busy schedules to make this event a success.  Jim spent much of Wednesday hauling items from our storage units to the Gateway Community Center and even the town dump, and we very much appreciate his willingness, his stamina, and his pickup truck.  Gini, Margie, and Debbie have been champion pricers.  In fact, Gini, along with Mark, helped priced dozens of artworks weeks ago, making the past few days move much more quickly.

Immanuel staff, too, have made room in their very full workdays to help out, and even more of them are giving up part or all of their Saturday to work the checkout station, greet guests, and keep an eye on the sale areas.  If you come buy a piece of furniture, you might find that our CEO, Jason Cronk, helps you carry it out to your car.  Rae Workman, the Buffalo Hill Terrace concierge, will be helping as well, as will Hannah Brown, Carla Wilton, Taryn Waldenberg, Kathy Buffington, and a host of other employees from the C-suite to the front lines.  We know how hard they work during their regular days, and we very much appreciate their willingness to give part of their time to fundraising for our Lodge Day Service program.

And our families and friends are also helping when they can.  Every volunteer makes a big difference in the lives of the community we serve.  And that goes for most organizations.  If you volunteer for any organization, thank you.  And thank you, thank you, thank you to our volunteers!  When we say we couldn’t have done it without you, we mean it!  Your love for our community shows every day!

On Saturday, May 18, from 8am-2pm, the Immanuel Foundation will host an Estate Sale at the Gateway Community Center (1203 US 2 W in Kalispell).  You’re invited to join us, and feel free to bring your friends!  We have a wide variety of items ranging from furniture to small appliances to jewelry, and all proceeds will help us extend our Lodge Day Service program to low-income families in the area.

All of the items we’ll be selling have been donated by residents of our valley.  In fact, many of them come from past, present, or future residents of Immanuel Lutheran Communities. Sometimes, when residents pass away, their family members aren’t quite sure what to do with all the things they leave behind.  When they donate them to the estate sale, we coordinate transportation and storage, so family members don’t have to worry about that when they’re also dealing with loss and with the sheer amount of work there is to do when someone passes.  Also, as residents move into the Villas, they often don’t have room to keep everything meaningful to them.  A lot of time their kids or other loved ones don’t want their stuff (or the residents don’t have close family who would naturally want it).  So, residents give their items to us because they know we’ll use the proceeds well.

We’ve gotten a few items that have particularly special stories behind them, and I thought I’d share some of those stories with you today.  After all, when you buy an object at an estate sale or secondhand store, you buy an object with history.  Most of the time, we never know the history, but some donors have shared the stories of their objects with us, and I’d like to share a few of those stories with you.

One resident gave us a painting of a parrot that she and her husband bought on a cruise ship.  The artist painted it over the course of the cruise and then, toward the end, there was a silent auction and the resident and her husband won.  The painting is a special memento of the trip and of their life together, but she doesn’t have a place for it in her new home at the Villas.  So, she gave it to us.  “I want you to have it because this is my home,” she told us.

Another couple gave us two significant objects.  One is an ice cream bowl that belonged to her grandparents.  It’s a special object that’s been handed down through generations, but they didn’t have room for it in their new home and they would prefer it be used than that it sit wrapped up in storage.  The second object of theirs is a spittoon from the courthouse in Great Falls.  We’re not quite sure how they came to have it, but they don’t have a place for it anymore and they want its proceeds to go to a good cause.

A third resident, who’s donated quite a few items, gave us a couple of pictures he painted himself as well as some other personally significant items.  He’s a retired art teacher and a working artist as well as an art collector.  He’s traveled a lot, so he’s amassed quite the collection of art, objects and experiences.  We have some fabric from France that he bought on his travels as well as assorted books and objects that reflect where he’s been and what he’s done.  Again, he just doesn’t have room to keep all of these things in his apartment, so by donating them to the sale he helps benefit his community at the same time he finds homes for his stuff.

When you come to the estate sale, you’ll have the chance to see all of these items and more.  I hope you’ll stop by!

A few months ago, a woman approached the director of our Memory Support community.  Her husband had dementia, and she was worn out from caring for him.  Like many people with dementia, he was prone to wandering and to approaching her repeatedly, often for the same needs she had only just addressed, though he couldn’t remember she had done so. Keeping an eye on him was basically a full-time job.  She needed just a little bit of time, she said—just enough time to go grocery shopping, clean the house, and maybe take a nap.  She’d correctly heard that we offer day services for people with dementia, and she was hoping she would be able to bring her husband to our community for a few hours every once in a while so she could get things done. There was a problem, though.  This couple was living on a fixed income, and their budget just wouldn’t stretch to the fees.

This couple likely came to us because Immanuel has long been a leader in services for people with dementia.  In the 1970s, we opened one of the first specialized environments for people with dementia in the Immanuel Skilled Care Center.  These days, the Lodge at Buffalo Hill, our Assisted Living Memory Support community, provides a secure, vibrant environment where seniors can thrive.  24 residents live there, but we know that’s not nearly enough capacity to fill the need in our valley.  We also know that dementia is in most cases progressive, and there’s often a gap between when a person first starts experiencing symptoms and needing support and when they’re ready to live full-time in a specialized community.

We started our day program to address these needs.  Now, community members can bring their loved ones with dementia to the Lodge for only a few hours—or a day—at a time.  These guests still go home at night.  There are a couple of benefits.  First of all, caring for someone with dementia is exhausting, and it’s particularly exhausting when that person is a spouse, parent, or other relative.  Many family caregivers get hardly any time to themselves because they need to make sure that their loved one is safe at all times.  Daily tasks like shopping, cooking, and home maintenance can be challenging—and forget time for relaxation or socialization.  Second, having dementia can be isolating for a person who has it, as well.  Especially in the early stages, people with dementia know they are not themselves, and because they can’t do everything they used to do, they can feel embarrassed and depressed as well as confused.

Respite care provides relief for both the person with dementia and the caregiver.  This can be a huge benefit to both individuals.  But it costs money, and not everyone can afford to pay even the moderate fees the Lodge charges for these services.  In some ways, the couple I told you about in the opening paragraph of this post believed that respite care was a luxury.  Their budget wouldn’t stretch to anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, so we haven’t been able to help them—yet. 

To help people like them, we would like offer a different payment model to make the program accessible to our Valley’s seniors in need.  While no one would ever pay more than the regular rate (currently $15/hour), families in need might pay less according to their income.  Because our costs remain the same regardless of a guest’s ability to pay, we need your philanthropic support to help us get this new payment model off the ground. 

When making decisions about necessities, most of us prioritize things like housing, food, and medical care.  Rest breaks and socialization tend to be some of the first things eliminated when we’re making decisions on tight budgets.  That’s the calculation our visiting couple had to make.  But studies show that respite is more of a necessity than a luxury.  In a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, 60% of caregivers reported at least one of three problem indicators related to their health (having one or more chronic conditions, being in fair or poor health, or having a disability).  Since only 33% of the non-caregiver general population reports such indicators, caregiving clearly has health impacts.  Respite programs like the Lodge Day Service lets caregivers take time to take care of their own health.  This isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

You can be part of providing this necessary service by giving to Immanuel.  Simply click here and choose “Memory Care Program” from the dropdown menu to designate your gift.  Your gifts will make a real difference to our area seniors in need and their caregivers of all ages.  Thank you.

As the new year begins, we often think about what we’d like to do differently.  A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions, in which they set out specific goals for the coming year.  The Immanuel Foundation has several New Year’s Resolution, and you can help us meet them.  Here’s what we’re resolved to do in 2019:

  • Grow our fundraising presence!  A lot of people in the Flathead see Immanuel Lutheran Communities as an important resource for seniors in our community.  Not everyone knows that Immanuel is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks philanthropic support.  But we’ve been fundraising in the Flathead Valley for over sixty years.  You can help by spreading the word!
  • Grow our Partners in Caring Monthly Giving Program!  Partners in Caring give a set amount every month on a recurring, automatic basis.  These gifts, no matter how small or large, are reliable for Immanuel and convenient for donors.  With one action, you can give steadily throughout the year (and beyond!).  All you have to do is visit our Partners in Caring page to set up your donation via credit card.  If you prefer to give by secure bank transfer or, if you’re an Immanuel employee, with a payroll deduction, just call or visit the Immanuel Foundation office.  Thank you.
  • Grow our Vehicle Donation program!  We accept the donation of any unwanted vehicle.  It can be a car, truck, boat, motorcycle—or even an RV.  All you have to do is visit our vehicle donation page—or call 855-500-RIDE (7433).  A representative will take your vehicle information and set up a pickup time.  You won’t have to do anything else, and your gift is tax deductible.  Don’t have an old vehicle?  Let your friends and family know, just in case they have an old one that can benefit Immanuel.

We’ll also be hosting at least one event here at Immanuel Lutheran Communities in 2019, and we hope to take The Passions Project photographs on the road so others in our area can see these wonderful pictures.  Whatever we do, we hope you’ll resolve to join us in whatever makes sense for your schedule, your budget, and your desire to serve seniors in the Flathead Valley.  Happy New Year!

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 3, the public will have the opportunity to see The Villas at Buffalo Hill for the first time.  For over a year, this project has been rising slowly from the top of Buffalo Hill next to Buffalo Hill Terrace (of which it is a part).  While we haven’t measured, there’s a good chance that, thanks to its hilltop location, the top of the Villas is the highest point in Kalispell.  Many community members have been curious about what this building is like inside, and tomorrow, they’ll have a chance to see it.

The Villas feature 36 beautifully-finished apartment homes, most of which have been customized to the tastes and preferences of their first occupants.  These apartments represent a new variation on independent living at Immanuel.  Residents pay an entrance fee and, after move-in, a monthly fee that’s somewhat lower than the rental rate at Buffalo Hill Terrace.  In addition to one restaurant meal a day and access to all of the amenities Immanuel has to offer, the entrance fee provides residents with the safety net of an investment; at move-out, part of it will be refunded to the resident or their heirs (the percentage depends on which of several plans the resident chose).  In other words, the Villas provides residents with a home for now and security for later.  And because the Villas are located on Immanuel Lutheran Communities’ campus, residents whose health needs change won’t have to go far if they need assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, memory support, or skilled nursing.

Of course, the Villas aren’t the only thing opening this weekend.  We’ll also be revealing to the public the new auditorium/chapel and swimming pool.  These amenities are at least exciting as the Villas.  For a long time, we have been looking forward to having a gathering space larger than the Buffalo Room, and many residents are eagerly anticipating the possibility of taking a swim or soaking in a hot tub without ever leaving campus.  These new spaces will expand our fitness offerings and make it possible for more residents to attend popular activities like Dinner and a Movie (during which participants enjoy a special meal while watching a feature film).  They’ll also make it possible for us to host more external groups and make large events, like the Family and Friends Christmas Dinner, run even more smoothly.

While the buildings look beautiful and are ready to host visitors and be used by residents, there’s still a feature missing.  We want to install a stained-glass window in the chapel, and we need your help.  Our quilt raffle this summer got us started, and a generous anonymous donor pushed us further along the path, but we still need about $12,000 before we have enough funds to purchase the image of Jesus as the Good Shepard our artist has designed.  If you would like to help, please click on the link below and designate your gift to “stained glass.”  We want the chapel to be a sacred space where our residents worship as well as celebrate, play, and exercise.

To see what a difference your gift could make, come to the Open House at the Villas on Saturday, November 3 at 10am—or join us at 1pm on Sunday, November 4 for the Chapel Dedication Service.  We’d love to see you!

On Thursday, October 11, the Immanuel Foundation will host our first public event.  We are inviting the community to join us at 5:30pm in the lobby of Buffalo Hill Terrace for drinks, heavy appetizers prepared by our marvelous dining team, and the unveiling of the Passions Project photos.  And we’re extra lucky because photographer Heidi Wagner will be present to discuss her creative process and the story behind the Passions Project.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read quite a bit about the Passions Project by now.  We’re excited to share these photos.  Moreover, we’re excited to offer you a glimpse of the amazing, engaged seniors who live at Immanuel.  Whether they’re sharing their collections, walking beloved pets, or playing games, these residents continue to pursue the activities that bring them the most joy.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities participated in the Passions Project because we think it’s important to show our community how active and interesting residents remain.  That’s partly why the Foundation wanted to sponsor this project, of course.  We think it says a lot about the vision of aging we want to promote—one that’s active, engaged, and joyful rather than isolated and dull.

But the Foundation also chose to be part of this project because we want to show you who we raise money for.  All nineteen of the faces you’ll see at the Passions Project opening are Immanuel residents.  They live in all parts of community, from independent living to skilled nursing.  While some of them might need more philanthropic assistance than others, they are all real people engaged with their passions right here, in this community.  They all have stories.  Every single Immanuel resident has a lifetime of experience behind them, and every single one of them has something to share.  We’re hoping that The Passions Project will highlight some small part of the wisdom—and just plain interesting stories—housed in our community.

We’ve chosen to celebrate The Passions Project and the Foundation launch at the same time because both things are, in some ways, about celebrating the wonderful seniors who call Immanuel home.  The Passions Project celebrates them in obvious ways, by highlighting their skills, talents, and passions.  The Foundation celebrates them by seeking funds to make sure their lives remain as joyful and engaged as possible.  All of us, no matter our ages, need support to pursue our passions.  Immanuel wholeheartedly supports residents in living life in the ways that make them happiest.  The Foundation’s work helps make this support possible, and as we get our work off the ground, we look forward to learning more and sharing more about the people who live in our community.

So please join us on Thursday the 11th!  There’s still time to RSVP by clicking on the link below.

Every year, Buffalo Hill Terrace hosts a big end-of-summer party.  This event marks the end of our annual concert series and brings the community together for one last hurrah in the outdoors before the Montana winter takes hold.  This year’s event on Saturday, September 15 featured local Western band Barnyard Riot.  The Cajun menu, planned and prepared by our fabulous chef Andrew Nelson and his stellar team, included everything from homemade hush puppies (my personal favorite!) to alligator legs (no, they were not chicken).

The courtyard was full of residents, family members, and friends of Immanuel Lutheran Communities enjoying each other and the beautiful weather.  Hannah Brown and the Recreation team used checked table cloths and tin pales of flower arrangements to lend a casual but special and festive air to the space.  Guests chatted, ate, listened to music, and admired the flower beds that are still thriving in the main courtyard even as fall approaches.  All in all, it was a wonderful atmosphere.  The Buffalo Hill Terrace team showed once again how well they work together to produce events the entire Flathead Valley community can enjoy.

I was also struck by how philanthropic our community is.  As you may know, we’ve been raising money for altar furnishings and stained glass for our new chapel.  Thanks to a recent generous donation and a grant from the William and Blanche Hetzel Foundation, we are well on our way toward meeting our $30,000 goal.  We were also the recipients of a quilt, handmade and donated by Charmaine Stappler, which we raffled off.  Saturday’s concert marked the end of ticket sales.  On this last day alone, we raised $550 from the quilt raffle.  All told, the raffle raised $1,435 for the altar and stained glass and helped move us that much closer to our goal.  We drew the winner on Saturday, as well, and the lucky Cheryl Luke now owns this beautiful quilt.  Thank you so much to Charmaine and all who bought tickets!  The generosity of people like you helps our community grow and thrive!

While we’re well on our way to creating a sacred space in our new auditorium, we’re not there yet.  Right now, we’re about $13,000 short of our goal.  If you’d like to help, contact the Foundation office or click the link below and designate your gift to the Altar or Stained Glass fund.  Like the residents and family members present at the concert, our donors are critical parts of our Immanuel community.  We truly appreciate all you share with us, and we hope to see you (again!) next time our community comes together.

From hiking to painting to writing to spending time with pets, we all have things we love to do.  When asked how we want to spend our time when we retire, I think most of us would say that we want to be doing the things we love most and spending time with the people we love most.

However, there seems to be a perception out there that as we age, we stop doing the things we love, and that maybe we even stop loving the things we used to.  While it’s true that our interests and abilities change, we can continue to find joy in the things we’re passionate about—and we can even develop new passions.

This year, Immanuel Lutheran Communities is participating in The Passions Project, a photo series showcasing seniors pursuing their passions.  We’ve selected twenty residents to be photographed, and we’ll use these photos around campus and, we hope, around town.  We want to change the face of aging in the Flathead Valley.

As you learn more about the Passions Project in the coming weeks, I encourage you to think about what you want to be doing in the latter years of your life.  Will you hike more?  Read more books?  Travel the world?  Or maybe, like some the Passions Project featured residents, you’ll discover a new passion!